Learning about death – a child’s perspective

How many of us are a tad apprehensive when it comes to talking to our children about death?

I was one of those people.  It’s not that I didn’t know what to necessarily say, but the topic just seemed so delicate for some reason, that I didn’t want to bring it up until it was the ‘right time’.

Well, when you have a baby who’s supposed to come home from the hospital, but instead dies, it raises a lot of questions from young children!  It was now the ‘right’ time to talk about death.

It depends on the age of the child as to how much they will grasp, or what type of questions they may ask regarding death.  Our 5 year old had some questions, our 3 year old had nada – life went on as normal for him.

With our kids we explained that Briela passed away – meaning she was now in heaven with Jesus and we will see her again one day.  It was amazing how easy it was for our boys to accept that fact and be content.  Personally, I had to ask God a lot of hard questions, review the scenario in different ways for different outcomes, etc, etc.  Childlike faith is such a beautiful and inspiring thing.  I sure was inspired just being around the boys in the months following Briela’s death.

There were moments every now and then that took me off guard though; the boys’ questions or comments regarding death.  “How do we get to heaven? Can we drive our van there?” “Why did she die though?” “Is she a kid in heaven?”, and even comments regarding other children; I remember grabbing the newspaper and on the cover was a picture of a baby.  My 5 year old then says “That baby didn’t die”.

The topic of death seems to have become a regular part of conversation, and a normal event.  Even with play the boy’s will often include death in their made-up stories.

Even with my current pregnancy, my oldest son will make comments like, “I hope this one doesn’t die”, or “This one will live!”.  I love how blunt and honest he is (even if it seems insensitive – which is not his intent), and it’s in these moments where we can pray and ask God for protection over this little baby.

I remember reading a friend’s Facebook post about the topic of death and how he had to kind of hide it from his 5 year old.  There was a missing teenager in our area, and when the public learned that he had died, the signs came down.  His son asked why the signs were down, and if they had found that boy.  His dad just replied with “yes, I guess they have”, too afraid to bring up the fact that he had in fact, died.  Other commenters agreed that his child has a good heart, but is too young to understand the reality of the situation.

It made me a little sad.  But I know that people have different ideas of what death looks like, and some ideas might not be as promising or joyous as heaven.  Or maybe they do, but they are afraid to bring up the other destination – hell, with their kids.  I actually think that if you are going to be telling your kids about heaven, that hell should be included because not everyone will be going to heaven.  When our kids learn that only the people who have a relationship with God are going to heaven, it opens up the conversation of why we need to show God’s love, and even tell others about Jesus with our kids.  That’s why we’re here on this earth, isn’t it?

But having gone through this conversation with our kids, there was such a freedom to open up about the truth of the scenario regarding the missing teenager in our area.  It was quite liberating knowing that our children understood, and again, it is a normal part of life so there was nothing to hide.

It can be a touchy topic, but I think a lot of the times we make it touchier than it needs to be.  Kids are much more accepting of things, no matter how crazy or confusing they may seem to be for us.

I do feel that our family’s faith has made bringing up death and what it entails a lot easier for me.  Instead of death just being the end of living, living actually continues – just in a different way.  And with the amazing imagination kids have, it is something that they can accept a lot easier than some adults who need ‘proof’ for everything.

Have you had the ‘death’ conversation with your children?  How did they respond?

Was it hard to find the right words to explain it?

Let me know below!